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In deep water: An ode to the shark film

In 2018’s The Meg Jason Statham will battle a 70-foot shark to the death. Having outlived the radioactive giant bugs of the Cold War, it is time to hail the ruling jaws of the B Movie animal kingdom: sharks, and give them the credit they deserve.

Of all the beasts God created, few can rival the shark for being a perfectly evolved killing machine. They are creatures of beauty and diversity despite their many, many sharp teeth. Consequently, few movie monsters have consistently been portrayed as poorly as the shark has. Yes, there are the greats, I mean, one great shark film: Jaws, the film that made us all terrified to step into the ocean. And, there have been ‘goods,’ like The Reef, Open Water, and Jaws 2, but these films don’t captivate my soul quite like the films which mix overcompensating bikinis, toxic masculinity, awkward science, poor CGI, and truly embarrassing deaths; the bad shark film. Because in the deep blue sea of schlock there are films that range from misguided yet competent projects to utter chum buckets of absolute ridicule. And I have only one thing to say to this entire quirky subgenre: I love you all.

The big daddy of shark movies: Jaws. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

It is time to hail the ruling jaws of the B Movie animal kingdom: Sharks

It was love at first shot of a Megalodon frozen in a block of ice like an Eskimo’s Barbie doll in Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus.  This bad shark film stuck with me in a way few other awful monster filmography has. The “science” consisted of hot scientists mixing different coloured chemicals until they got bored and decided to go with the Godzilla-method of dealing with the titular monsters: letting them awkwardly battle to the death before the shark eats another airplane mid-flight or the military let another jet fly just low enough for the octopus to casually swipe it to death. All of it was beautiful. Not only did it give me joy, but it also opened up the floodgates for a swarm of more shark flicks to follow. If you don’t believe that this sub-genre of monster-horror is bad art at its most refined then let me ask you the following: how creative would you be if assigned to make a shark film? Could you imagine, even come close to the exploitative, seemingly endless stupidity that these films have to offer just based on the titles alone?

Try half-shark half-octopus, Sharktopus with B-Movie producing legend, Roger Corman behind the wheel of your sinking ship. Try sharks that tear through sand and look as convincing as your first attempt at Microsoft Paint. Why not have sharks that are actually ghosts and can appear in any kind of water? Or sharks with multiple heads because one’s not enough, surely. Sharks that can be swept up in tornados or those who valiantly take the fight against giant crocodiles in Africa or underpaid gangsters in Venice. Sharks that, despite not having vocal chords, will not only roar but also try to kill Michael Caine.

And why stop at the beach? Why not have them invade a flooded shopping mall in a bid to make a semi-good movie, thank you Bait. Forget physics, there are sharks that can operate ovens, or in a swarm, attack a plane mid-flight. Yes, because of Sharknado 2: The Second One you will never go into an airplane bathroom feeling remotely safe. Big sharks, many sharks, sharks in space, you will be accommodated, no matter your desire, no matter your insane wishes and it will be a treat for the whole family. Thank you, Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No for the happiness you brought to my mother and I when we were in Texas; we had nothing to do but watch Sci-fi channel, which is when we saw you premier in all your laser chainsaw wielding glory! It was this insanity that allowed me to forgive you for reducing the fate of a character to a Twitter poll. You dismembered a man in a way that would have made Monty Python proud.

Bad shark movies are deliberately cheesy – they pull minor and forgotten celebrities into their teeth and dismember their dignity. But there’s something about them which keeps me coming back into the shallows for more. Maybe it’s because they are slightly more tasteful than their piranha or zombified beaver counterparts towards their many women in bikinis? Or, maybe it’s the way in which they all seem to be competing for most misjudged death scene ever put to celluloid? Granted they don’t quite reach the genius of Black Sheep, but, in all fairness, the farmyard animal horror genre hasn’t spawned many films so we have to look elsewhere for our crummy fast, mass produced crud. And it’s a machine that keeps on giving, biting our wallets again and again for more.

Bad shark movies are deliberately cheesy – they pull minor and forgotten celebrities into their teeth and dismember their dignity.

I love sharks, I find them genuinely fascinating as they show how evolution can create something that endures for millions of years without change. And I love bad movies –  they highlight not only how entertaining a failed art form can be, but also how it works on a level that good cinema tries to disguise. Combine the two and you have crap that will lie at the bottom of the bargain buckets for millions of years after we are gone and they stop making Sharknado sequels.

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